Kyle Lewis didn’t feel the awkward disappointment on July 12 when the Mariners were no-hit by the Angels on an emotional night at Angels Stadium. It was the first game back in Anaheim after pitcher Tyler Skaggs’ tragic death. His mom had thrown out the first pitch and the Angels seemed to have the game before it had even started. Two pitchers and the baseball gods held Seattle hitless for the first time in 2019.
Lewis wasn’t in Houston on August 3 to experience the embarrassment of having to explain being no-hit for the second time in less than two weeks. As if getting trounced by the Astros in seemingly every game this season wasn’t enough, they had to get held hitless again, this time by a combination of four pitchers, including Aaron Sanchez, who came in with one win on the season.
Called up on Tuesday and playing in just his second major-league game, Lewis was free from the baggage of the all the losses this season and the regrettable feelings that being no-hit twice can elicit and leave in your psyche. And that was a good thing for the Mariners as they avoided a dubious spot in baseball history in their 5-3 victory over the Reds.
In his sixth big-league plate appearance, Lewis stepped to the plate in the seventh inning with his team trailing by two runs, and more important, without a hit against Reds right-hander Sonny Gray.
But in one terrifyingly fast and vicious lash of his bat, Lewis changed the entire game and perhaps the thinking of more than a few Mariners fans about the state of the franchise’s future.
Lewis destroyed a first-pitch fastball that was left over the middle of the plate from Gray, sending a towering blast that carried over the wall in right-center. His three-run homer not only snapped a no-hitter, but it gave the Mariners a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“With runners on, I was trying to go early (in the count),” Lewis said. “He had been snapping his curveball pretty good. So I was just trying to get a fastball. I thought he might go fastball early so I wanted to be ready to swing. Not miss my opportunity.”
Having played all of two games in this stadium, Lewis wasn’t certain if the ball would clear the fence.
“I thought it had a chance, but I wasn’t really sure,” he said. “I was running pretty decent out of the box. That’s kind of a deep part of the park. So you never know. But I tried to slow it down, make a point to jog … feel the energy. That was really cool.”
Lewis has two hits as a big-leaguer and both are home runs.
Lewis is the third Mariners player in team history to homer in each of his first two career games, joining Alvin Davis (1984) and Kenji Johjima (2006) and the 24th in MLB history.
“Quite a start to his major-league career,” manager Scott Servais said. “We are kind of putting him up against it. We don’t get a hit until he comes up the second or third time in games.”
On Tuesday, with his team hitless over the first four innings, he hammered a 2-0 fastball from Trevor Bauer into the Mariners bullpen for a solo homer.
His homer off Gray showcased where his true power lies – right-center. And driving a ball that far on a cool night with no wind at T-Mobile Park isn’t simple. Statcast measured the blast at 383 feet with an exit velocity of 106 mph.
“You see the kind of ability this guy has, the way the ball jumps off his bat,” Servais said. “There’s been a few guys here with that kind of power. The ball was in the air forever. It had great carry on it. He’s a really talented young guy and it’s going to be fun to see how it plays out for his next years here at T-Mobile Park.
Lewis’ homer also rewarded Marco Gonzales. The Mariners’ lefty had delivered a solid outing, allowing two runs on five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings. But it looked like he was going to take a loss, getting outdueled by a pitcher tossing a no-hitter. Instead, he improved 15-11, with the 15 wins a career high.
“We don’t get in that spot unless Marco Gonzales does his job tonight,” Servais said. “He was really sharp and he needed to be because Sonny Gray was as well. I’m glad we got him the win.”
Gray took the loss to fall to 10-7. He pitched to one more batter after Lewis, giving up a single to Daniel Vogelbach. His final line: 6 1/3 innings pitched, three runs allowed on two hits with three walks, nine strikeouts and a hit batter.
Seattle tacked on two more runs in eighth inning off the Reds for some cushion. Austin Nola scored Mallex Smith with a single and Kyle Seager smoked a double over the head of center fielder Brian O’Grady to score Nola from first base to make it 5-2.
Those runs became important when reliever Sam Tuivailala had trouble throwing strikes in the bottom of the ninth to close out the win. He loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a hit batter before being relieved after recording just one out. Anthony Bass entered the game and immediately struck out Curt Casali.
That’s when things got a little interesting and intense. Bass appeared to strike out pinch-hitter Derek Dietrich on a breaking ball in the dirt to end the game. Catcher Omar Narvaez blocked the ball off his chest protector. It shot forward and struck Dietrich’s bat on his follow through from the swing and miss. The ball was redirected toward the backstop.
By rule, it should be a dead ball with Dietrich called out automatically, game over. A player can’t make contact with the ball on a third strike swing and miss. But home plate umpire John Libka, a call up from the Class AAA level didn’t see what happened, so he assumed it was a wild pitch. Dietrich ran for first and the runner from third scored.
When the chaos had stopped, Servais bolted from the dugout to argue. He knew that play wasn’t on the list of reviewable plays. So even though replay made it look obvious, the umpires couldn’t ask for a review. But he was peeved that third-base umpire Paul Nauert, who claimed he was watching for the check swing, second-base umpire Carlos Torres and first-base umpire Ed Hickox didn’t see it in real time. He wanted their help on the call. He did not get it.
“There’s no way the ball can get to the backstop unless somebody hits it there,” Servais said. “There’s still two other umpires out there that need to see it. It’s pretty obvious what happened there. It’s right in front of them. That was a huge out. My temperature and blood boiled really quickly. The umpires didn’t want any part of making a decision there. It’s one of those that ultimately you just have to get it right. I understood it wasn’t a reviewable play. The home-plate umpire, it was tough call for him. But the guy at first and the guy at second, they have to be on top of that. Everyone else on the field saw it.”
When the Mariners’ video screen ran the replay and the small crowd of just over 10,000 people saw it, they went crazy and the Mariners dugout exploded. Libka ejected Servais, who responded by charging from the dugout and voicing more words of displeasure before exiting the field at the urging of Manny Acta.
Bass recovered and got Joey Votto to ground out to end the game.
Correction: A previous version of this story included a photo from the previous night’s game.